(CNN) -- A California company and its president pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges related to the distribution of human growth hormone, the Justice Department said.
DNP International Company, Inc., of Santa Fe Springs pleaded guilty to three counts, including a felony charge for the wholesale distribution of a prescription drug and two misdemeanor charges, the department said in a news release.
Owner David Ji, 50, of Irvine, pleaded guilty to a felony count of distributing prescription drugs in interstate commerce without a license, it said.
"When he pleaded guilty (Monday), Ji admitted that his company had distributed an unapproved drug containing somatropin -- a human growth hormone product -- which had not been approved for distribution in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration because the version of the drug being distributed by DNP was manufactured in China," the release said.
The company and Ji entered their pleas before U.S. District Judge George H. King, who set sentencing for December 10.
Ji faced up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. DNP faces a $900,000 fine. But his lawyer, Marc Harris, said prosecutors have agreed to recommend probation for five years, a $103,000 fine and a $147,000 forfeiture in exchange for Ji's plea.
Human growth hormone is produced in the brain by the pituitary gland. In the United States, it is approved for the treatment of short stature due to growth hormone deficiency and a number of other indications.
Injection of its recombinant form has been touted by some advocates as a way to improve performance in sports.
Ji sold 24 grams to a pharmacy in Brooklyn, New York, Harris said, adding that Ji's company continues to thrive by selling legitimate products.